7 Fun, Wet Water Balloon Activities

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Because we don’t have a hose and a water balloon nozzle, this summer staple of fun is not something Travis has enjoyed very often. Cue the water balloon hand pump! Now that I’ve invested in one (from Amazon), there are so many backyard games to play with our little water balloons. And some are even educational!

First: Sort by Color. Purchase a few buckets from a local dollar store in a variety of colors and have your child fill the correct bucket with the correct balloons.

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Easy for Travis!

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Second: Number Race. I numbered 10 balloons with sharpie and Travis’s job was to move them from one bucket to another in the correct order.

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This one involved a few slippery balloons running away before the task was complete.

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If two or more kids are playing, make it a race!

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Third: Target Game. Now we got a bit messier! I drew a bull’s-eye and we each had three balloons to toss.

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The person with the highest score wins, extra points for a big splash!

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Travis adored this.

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Which led us to…

Fourth: Balloon Toss! You can’t go wrong with this classic. Just toss back and forth and see who gets wet.

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It meant lots of exploding balloons and lots of giggles.

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Fifth: Relay Race. If you have a group, make it a true relay; balance a balloon on a cup and make it from point A to point B. Since Travis and I were playing just the two of us, we timed ourselves to see who could do it faster.

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Sixth: Balloon Sensory Tub. Float a few balloons in a baby bathtub. Even baby sister Veronika got to enjoy a (supervised) feel. Travis loved throwing the balloons into the tub for a big splash, of course!

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Seventh: Balloon “Parachute”. Place a few filled balloons on a sheet or large towel and pop them like popcorn.

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And with all those games said and done, Travis really just loved splatting them onto the ground for maximum splashy fun!

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Add your own favorite water balloon games in the comments!

Farmers’ Market Corn and Peach Salad

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This salad is the direct result of a trip to the farmer’s market. I hesitate to give an exact recipe, since the hope is that you tailor your family’s meal after what you find at your market! So consider the recipe below as a guideline only.

We set out with the intention of making a Corn, Nectarine, and Blueberry Salad that I’d spotted in a magazine, and I printed Travis a picture of each ingredient we hoped to find. This turned it into a neat scavenger hunt.

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Any similar hunt will be a great way to engage kids with the market and the sellers! If you don’t have exact ingredients in mind, then challenge your kids to find things you spot along the way: “Find me a root vegetable” or “Find me something red!” you can say.

Don’t forget to check out the other fun that a farmers’ market has to offer while you’re there.

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Travis got to sample fresh lemonade, pick out a toy made from organic catnip for our cat, check out homemade crafts, and more. Nibbling a bite of fresh basil was a must!

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Babies love the scents and sounds of a farmers’ market, too, so consider adding this to your summer hit-list of baby field trips!

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As it turns out, we couldn’t locate everything on our scavenger hunt ingredient list, but we did find perfect corn, and the biggest scallions we’d ever seen!

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So when we got home, we improvised the salad. We had beautiful local peaches in place of the nectarines, and no blueberries (but the salad was just fine without them!), and added lots more basil and scallions than called for since we had a big bounty. I present to you, our Farmers Market Corn and Peach Salad.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 ears fresh corn
  • 2 peeled and chopped ripe peaches
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
  1. Cut the kernels from the corn cobs and place in a large bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

DIY Star Wars Sun Prints

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Travis has been obsessed with Star Wars lately, so we used a favorite summer art activity (sun prints) to make DIY room decor!

Print out templates of your child’s favorite characters heads. Favorites around here include Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, but many of the character’s heads or helmets will make iconic shadows.

Cut out the templates and place on colored construction paper. Set in the sun for at least a few hours – the longer the better!

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Travis loved the shadowy images we achieved and proudly hung them in his room.

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Don’t forget you can play this game with plenty of other objects, too. Cookie cutters make cute decor for Veronika’s side of the room.

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Meteor Meatballs

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These meatballs were the second recipe in Travis’s cosmic cuisine-themed Raddish Kids, meant to mimic meteors from space (and get it meat-ier meatballs?). We made ours with Raddish’s excellent vegan suggestion for chickpeas in place of chicken.

To start, Travis helped peel 3 cloves of garlic. I minced them and we put in a large bowl. Finely chop 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves and add to the garlic.

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Next I showed him how to grate zucchini against a box grater; he loved it! Add 1 cup to the garlic mixture, along with 2/3 cup canned or frozen corn.

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Next we made a flax egg: whisk 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed into 3 tablespoons water and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir into the zucchini mixture, along with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

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Add 1/4 cup vegan Parmesan sprinkles and 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs. Finally, drain 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas and pulse in a food processor until crumbly. Add to the mixture. Time to get messy! I was so proud of Travis, getting his hands right in there to mush it up, and I showed him how to roll a meatball.

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Arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet covered with foil and greased with cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes.

Travis ate – I kid you not! – half of the recipe in one sitting. This either means he’s having a growth spurt or speaks directly to how awesome the meatballs are. Or both! We served with onion ring “Saturn rings” for a fun veggie side dish.

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As he dined, we read the recipe card facts about various space rocks (meteoroids versus comets etc.), and learned a bit more about meals in space for astronauts.

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For a little dessert fun, we repeated an old favorite: marshmallow constellations!

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All you need are marshmallows (try Dandie’s for a vegan brand) and toothpicks. This time, I really challenged Travis to follow along with a provided diagram and piece together one of the simpler star formations.

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After some puzzling, he was able to put together Libra!

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Meanwhile, mommy worked on some intricate ones, like Ursa Major and Scorpius.

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Travis then decided he preferred to make his own, and soon had this stick person constellation.

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Don’t forget to clean up – by eating them, of course.

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Faces of the Moon

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If you’re looking for the most delicious way under the sun (er, moon!) to teach your kid the names for all the moon’s different phases, this quick lesson plan from Raddish Kids has you covered. Hint: It involves Oreo cookies.

But before I let Travis eat cookies, we focused on a little moon information. I asked Travis what he pictured when he thought about the sky; he came up with ‘blue’ and ‘clouds’. Two great daytime picks! But what about focusing on the nighttime sky, I asked him.

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We watched two quick background videos on moon phases and I also made him a chart (which earned a “thanks Mom!”). This was his first introduction to some great science words, like waxing, waning, and gibbous.

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Now it was time to show him the moon phases with three neat projects.

To make the first, a moon phase viewer, cut a black rectangle from construction paper. Fold the paper in half and open back up again. Cut a white square from white construction paper that fits in the folded black rectangle, leaving a long tab on either end so you can pull the white paper side to side.

Trace a coin on the black paper, pressing firmly so the imprint is visible on the white paper below as well. Cut out both circles.

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Now line up your viewer and slide the white paper to see it change from gibbous to half to crescent to new and back again!

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For the second moon viewer, you’ll need two plastic cups. Glue or tape a yellow circle onto black construction paper and insert into one plastic cup; tape into place.

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On the second cup, label a place for full, waning half, new, and waxing half moons. Now rotate your yellow circle and color over it with black sharpie as appropriate to form each moon phase, leaving the full moon with no sharpie. Travis loved spinning this one!

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The third version is where he had the real fun! I set out eight cookies (we like Newman O’s) on a diagram and it was Travis’s job to scrape the right amount of frosting off each to form the eight phases.

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Needless to say, there was much nibbling along with the scraping!

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I had to help him with some of the trickier ones (gibbous, crescents), but he was a pro at half and new moon.

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We finished off with a read of The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons.

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Consider making craters in a clay moon if your kids want to continue the fun!

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Eat the Alphabet

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What better way to conclude an almost-kindergartner’s summer alphabet lessons than to eat your way through it? Each day for 26 days at snack time, I gave Travis a food starting with a letter, in alphabetical order. He had to make that letter first, then – yum – gobble it up! Without further ado, Travis nibbled his way through:

A for apples

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B for banana slices

Eat Alph B

C for cereal

Eat Alph C

D for dates

Eat Alph D

E for eggplant

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F for Fritos

Eat Alph F

G for grapes

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H for Hippies (chickpea puffs)

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I for ice cream cone

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J for Jelly

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K for kiwi

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L for licorice

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M for marshmallows

Eat Alph M

N for nuts

Eat Alph N

O for Oreo cookies

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P for pretzels

Eat Alph P

Q for quesadilla

R for raspberries

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S for Sour Patch kids

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T for Twizzlers

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U for Utz chips

V for vanilla cookies

W for watermelon

X for two crossed carrot stix

Y for yams

and Z for zucchini

Melted Crayon Suncatchers

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It’s so fun to harness the power of the sun when you make art in the summertime. Travis and I used melted crayons in a project once before, but that one relied on the indoor heat of a hairdryer. This time, we put the sun’s heat to work!

To set up, lay a piece of black construction paper on a baking sheet. The dark surface and the metal will help absorb as much of the sun’s heat as possible. Cut two equal sheets of wax paper, and place one on the black paper.

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The next step was a bit tricky: remove the paper wrapper from crayons and use the edge of a craft stick to shave off bits of wax. Travis found this to be quite difficult, and in all honesty, I did too.

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After he’d tried for a bit, I made sure our wax paper was covered with enough shavings. Cover that with the second piece of wax paper.

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Now place in direct sunlight (just like we did with a solar oven a few days ago)! Depending how hot the day is, your crayons may need anywhere from 1 hour to several in order to melt. You can press down, on occasion, to help the process along.

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To turn it into a suncatcher, cut the wax paper into rectangles or other shapes, and punch a hole in the top of each piece.

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Thread them onto a dowel (or attach with string), and hang up in the window to catch the sun.

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What beautiful sunshine!

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Sundial

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Last summer Travis helped make two DIY versions of a sundial, but he was really too young to understand how we were tracking the sun. This year, he was ready, and our model a bit more precise!

First, he traced a circle on a piece of sturdy poster board.

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Cut out and find the exact center of your poster board by measuring halfway lengthwise and crosswise.

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We used a dowel as our centerpiece, and used clay to hold it in place; Travis pressed down the clay, and then made sure the dowel was nice and secure.

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We headed out the next morning as soon as sunlight hit the patio, and I showed Travis how to trace a straight line along a ruler following the dowel’s shadow.

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I pointed out how looong the shadow was this time of day, too, and challenged him to notice how that would change as the day went on.

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We missed a few morning hours because we were out and about! But by 1 p.m. we were steadily marking on the hour. As we had guessed, the dowel’s shadow was much shorter in the middle of the afternoon, then began to lengthen again.

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After 5, we lost our sunlight on the patio!

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So now it was time to head inside and decorate the sundial. Dot markers were the perfect tool for the job!

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Travis loved the way it looked and now has a neat visual of the sun’s path across the sky each day.

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Exploring Stars Kiwi Crate

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The topic of Travis’s Kiwi Crate this month (stars and the solar system), is one of his favorite topics, so I had no doubts he would enjoy the projects. The crafts themselves proved to be a little faulty, but we still had galaxies full of fun. What a perfect coincidence that his recipes from Raddish Kids were star-themed this month, too.

First up: a Constellation Lantern. Travis knows quite a bit about constellations, so happily set about making a few pretend versions with the provided black star stickers on the lantern paper.

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I made a few real star patterns for him, including Leo the lion (his astrological sign) and some funny ones (Darth Vader’s helmet!).

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He popped open the paper lantern frame.

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Insert the slots at the bottom of the frame into the provided paper base; fold and then tape to secure shut. Open the paper lantern insert and put this inside the first frame. The pages he had decorated with stars now fit in between these two.

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“I can do it myself!” he said confidently, not wanting any assistance.

Adhere the provided foam circle into the bottom of the lantern. Insert the provided tea light (make sure it is on!) and then add the paper lantern lid. A pipe cleaner threaded through holes in the top makes a handle.

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From here, we were off to the darkest room we could find in the house to check it out!

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Travis loved being in the dark and seeing the stars “glow”.

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Next up was a Solar Spinner, a kid-friendly version of an orrery.

Two interlocking wooden gears are inserted into the provided base and secured with brads. As with the lantern, Travis loved doing all these fine motor skills by himself.

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Once the gears were between the two base plates, Travis screwed them together with kid-friendly plastic nuts and bolts.

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He gave the machine little test, and watched the wooden gears spin around together. Now we just needed to add the provided sun, Earth, and moon. There are teeny tiny green stickers that kids can add to the blue Earth circle.

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The “sun” is a light inserted into a plastic case.

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All three orbs attach to the orrery with sticky foam dots.

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Travis was smitten with the model he’d made! It also fantastically illustrates to children why sometimes it’s day and sometimes night, as well as why sometimes we see a full moon and sometimes no moon (a new moon). Full moon…

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New moon!

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Finally, we put together a Making Moonlight model. Stick the sharp end of a pencil onto a Styrofoam ball (not provided in the kit); this will be your moon. Turn on a flashlight; this is your sun!

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Now we headed into a dark room and I had Travis spin while I held the “sun.”

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When the flashlight hits the ball, it appears to glow; but of course it’s not really glowing, just reflecting the flashlight. The idea is to show that the moon doesn’t make its own light, but looks “full” when the sun shines on it, and looks “new” when sunlight does not hit it.

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Travis loved adding lots of “craters” to his moon before he was done with it.

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As mentioned at the top of this post, the projects were a little faulty in this kit. In order to turn off the lights in both, you had to disassemble them a little. This constant take-apart-and-put-back-together-again meant that neither project lasted long. The top of the lantern and pipe cleaner were soon crumpled and broken, and the model sun no longer adhered to our model solar system.

But we at least got to enjoy both for a short while!

Meanwhile, we can’t wait to explore further with Travis’s real telescope on an upcoming vacation. Our plans include making up our own pictures with what we see in the night sky; comparing how the sky is way out in the countryside versus near a city; and looking for craters on the moon!

Snack Math

 

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Summer is winding to a close and I’m sneaking in a few final math games before the start of (!) Kindergarten. Today Travis did a quick math review  at snack time. Ideal foods for this game are small snacks your child eats a lot of: Annie’s bunny grahams, cereal pieces, pretzel sticks, etc. We played with Earth Balance vegan cheddar squares!

Write out the numbers 1 through 10 on post-its or index cards. Before eating, Travis had to place the correct number of cheddar squares on each post-it.

I had him start with 10 knowing that working up to larger numbers would be more daunting. Instead, it got easier as he went along.

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Unexpectedly, he loved the game! He tried to make each pile into vertical stacks, and thought it was hilarious when they toppled over.

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This was a great way to keep a math lesson light.

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He also thought it was hilarious to eat any broken cheddar squares he found, a quick lesson on fractions and halves even if he didn’t know it!

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And then at the end, he got to knock down all the towers and gobble them up.

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